Arthur Miller’s All My Sons is a modern classic, the moral lessons of which remain strikingly pertinent even today, nearly 70 years after it first premiered, and which has seen some very different interpretations. In the new revival at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, director Timothy Sheader has created one of the finest pieces of theatre in London at this time, proving that Miller’s tragedy still compels and moves audiences in its original setting.
Sheader’s production immediately confronts us with the subject matter, that is the moral dilemma of the play. Certainly the play has a great resonance for a modern audience, allowing us to question the social and moral responsibility of our own actions. At the play’s dramatic conclusion, we remain sympathetic to Joe Keller and can understand the thought process behind his actions, much as we know he is in the wrong. What is most haunting is the sense that we are Kate Keller and Jim Bayliss: we understand the crime, and would probably remain silent and complicit.
Of course the resonance of the themes has everything to do with the actors. Words alone cannot do justice to the flawless performances of the four leads. Tom Mannion perfectly portrays the single-minded family man Joe Keller, his every move pointing us towards the play’s tragic conclusion; Bríd Brennan gets the perfect balance between the sweet motherly nature and irrational need for control of bereaved mother Kate; Charles Aitken is charmingly open and sensitive, and thoroughly endearing, as Chris; and as Ann Deever, Amy Nuttall gets everything right, at once young and innocent, yet strong in her convictions and somehow powerful. The whole company is truly magnificent, pulling us into the story from the outset and keeping us engaged even when the show is over.
Old ghosts are all around the Keller household, and in spite of the deliberate repression of some thoughts and memories, the past continually asserts itself. Never have the ghosts of the brutal past felt more tangible than in the accusatory stares of Sheader’s unearthly platoon of soldiers, guiding the play toward its tragically haunting climax with their compelling judgment.
Simply put, Sheader’s All My Sons is a brilliant piece of theatre, and an absolute must-see. The moral tale is compellingly brought to life in a new rendition that takes the audience on a sad and beautiful journey, and stays in their thoughts long after leaving the theatre.
All My Sons is playing at the Regent’s Park Ope Air Theatre until 7 June. For more information and tickets, see the Open Air Theatre’s website.